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Beating The Holiday Blues

Depression is a common illness that strikes about one in 15 North Americans each year, and is the number one com-plaint heard by primary-care physicians. Unlike conventional medicine, alternative remedies offer a natural way to deal with depres-sion without harsh side effects.

"There is a significant body of research and clinical evidence that documents the safety and efficacy of St. John's wort to treat mild to moderate cases of depression," said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the nonprofit American Botanical Council. St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) has been used for centuries in folk and herbal remedies for diverse illnesses. As a standardized extract, it is used in Germany and European countries to treat mild to moderate depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. "Prozac, the most popular antidepressant drug in the United States for depression, has had a controversial history of serious side effects," wrote Janet Zand L.Ac., O.M.D., in Natural Healing for Depression. "The herb St. John's wort, which research has demonstrated to be as effective as Prozac, has few known side effects."

One study reported that one-third fewer side effects were noted in subjects taking St. John's wort, compared to subjects taking amitryptyline. And the latest update of clinical evidence on St. John's wort demonstrated that the herb was more effective than placebo in the treatment of mild to moderate depression

The common dosage for St. John's wort is 300 to 400 mg two to three times daily depending upon the severity of the depression. Note that St. John's wort is not recommended as a sole treatment for major depression or bipolar disorder.

Another popular antidepressant is SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine), a naturally occurring molecule in all human cells. Because it improves serotonin and dopamine activity, decreased levels of SAMe have been linked to depression.

Delle Chiaie and several other researchers from University La Sapienza in Rome reported on two large multicenter trials comparing the efficacy and safety of SAMe with that of Tofranil in patients with depression. According to the analysis, the antidepressant activity of SAMe appeared "superior to that of placebo and comparable to that of standard tricyclic antidepressants." The key difference, however, is that SAMe is said to work faster. SAMe possesses a rapid onset of action (five to 10 days) in seven clinical trials versus standard antidepressant medication, which can take 14 to 20 days to become effective.

Physicians warn that patients with bipolar depression or manic depression should not take SAMe because it could make a patient's mania worse.

Recent studies in the area of mental illness have made consumers more aware of the health benefits of essential fatty acids (EFAs). Worldwide dietary studies have shown that populations with a high rate of fish consumption, such as Japan and Taiwan, also have the lowest rates of major depression. Omega-3 is one fatty acid getting a lot of attention in the field of depression.

Natural antidepressants continue to garner much discussion and research, and can give us support for the occasional holiday blues.

Reference: Solutions for the World's Great Health Traditions and Practitioners, 1999.

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CoQ10 Shows Promise In Huntington's Disease

A popular nutritional supplement has become the first remedy to show promise in slowing the devastating progression of Huntington's disease. In a study appearing in the Journal Neurology, researchers examined whether the experimental drug Remacemide and the nutritional supplement coenzyme Q10 could slow down the functional decline inevitable in Huntington's disease.

Remacemide, which blocks a neurotransmitter in the brain that may contribute to the death of brain cells in the disease, had no effect on the progression of Huntington's.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) appeared to slow the disease by about 15%. "For the first time in a study on Huntington's disease, we see something hopeful. But it is not enough to make a definite therapeutic recommendation," principal investigator Dr. Karl Kieburtz, a neurologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, NY, said in an interview.

The study involved 347 early-stage Huntington's patients in the U.S. and Canada who were monitored for two and a half years.

Compared to patients on the placebo, those getting 600 mgs per day of CoQ10 were better able to handle daily responsibilities such as finances and domestic chores, retain cognitive skills, focus their attention, and were less depressed and irritable, the study found.

Huntington's is a disorder that affects over 30,000 North Americans. Symptoms usually begin in early to mid-adulthood, and patients generally live about 15 to 20 years after diagnosis.

Coenzyme Q10 is a fat-soluble organic compound that is naturally occurring in the human body.

Reference: Neurology, August 2001.

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Study Finds Vitamin E Helps Arteries

A timely report for the holiday feasts, a new health study conducted at Yale University shows that vitamin E keeps arteries open even when a high-fat meal has been consumed. Dr. David L. Katz of Yale's Prevention Research Center led a team of researchers who measured the effects of vitamin E, oatmeal, and wheat cereal against the body's blood flow after test patients consumed a high-fat meal.

The results showed that blood flow was maintained at normal healthy levels when a vitamin E capsule was taken along with the fatty meal. The vitamin E was in supple-ment form of 800 IUs.

In addition to the effect of vitamin E working against the fatty meal, intake of oatmeal also appeared to help maintain the proper blood flow in arteries. Using ultrasound testing, the study determined that the fatty meals caused arterial blood flow to drop by 13.4%. When followed by the 800 IU of vitamin E, no significant drop in the blood flow was found.

There's only one question remaining: How does one arrange oatmeal and vitamin E capsules on the holiday appetizer tray?

Reference: The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, March 2001.

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Lutein Joins Lycopene As Prostate Cancer Deterrent

New findings from UCLA indicate that lutein, a carotenoid found in green vegetables, can help protect against prostate cancer. In recent studies, lycopene, a carotenoid found in tomatoes, was associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer, but lutein had not been linked to prostate cancer prevention until now.

According to Dr. David Heber, director of the UCLA center for Human Nutrition and author of What Color Is Your Diet, the study focused on a rural area of China, which had a low incidence of prostate cancer despite a diet virtually free of lycopene (due to a lack of tomato intake) but rich in lutein (due to a high consumption of green vegetables). The study was then expanded to include Chinese American men and Caucasian men.

UCLA lab tests showed that lutein reduced prostate cancer cell growth by 25% while lycopene reduced cell growth by 20%. When lutein and lycopene were combined, prostate cancer cell growth was reduced by 32%, thus indicating that both nutrients together help protect against prostate cancer better than either nutrient alone.

"Lutein and lycopene in combination appear to have additive or synergistic effects against prostate cancer," said Heber. Lutein is found in green vegetables such as parsley, celery, and spinach, and was recently discovered in the avocado.

Reference: American Institute of Cancer Research meeting, July 16, 2001.

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Soy Foods Produce Heart Benefits For Men And Women

A new study in Australia has found that even healthy men can benefit from increased amounts of soy foods in their diets. One hundred and eight healthy men were enrolled in a trial conducted by a team of six researchers at medical schools and hospitals in Clayton and Victoria, Australia. The men, whose ages ranged from 50 to 75 years, received either soy protein isolate or a casein placebo.

The soy protein isolate contained 40 grams of soy protein and 118 mgs of isoflavones. After the three-month test period, it was found that the men who consumed soy protein had lower blood pressure and lower levels of choles-terol and also of triglycerides.

The study included 105 post-menopausal women who were given a soy diet similar to that of the male test subjects. The women who received the soy protein also responded favorably, compared to those who received the placebo.

The research team, headed by Dr. Helena J. Teede of Monash University, concluded that soy can help prevent heart disease.

Reference: Washington, PR Newswire, August 21, 2001.

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Fish Oils Prevent SCD

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) accounts for approximately 50% of all deaths due to heart disease. Any means that might help to prevent SCD would clearly be of great benefit. Several clinical trials have concluded that consuming fish on a regular basis or supplementing one's diet with fish oils can reduce the risk of SCD by as much as 50%.

Scientists in Denmark now report that fish oils significantly increase heart rate variability and conclude that this is likely the explanation for their protective effect. The researchers noted a high correlation between the reported consumption of fish and levels of EPA and DHA in fat tissue.

The investigators conclude high body levels of EPA and DHA can significantly reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death. They attribute this protective effect to the increase in heart rate variability as a result of increased consumption of fish or supplemental fish oil.

Reference: Circulation 2001;103:623-5.

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Written by: EcoMall

Disclaimer: These statements on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and is for educational purposes only. For any serious illness or health related disorders please consult your physician.


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